Tuesday 30 April 2013

the 78 cafe bar - as good as chips get?

I'm going out on a limb here and realise the inevitable danger that others may visit the 78 when the potatoes aren't the same variety, a different person's cooking or the oil's a bit older and colder. Well if that happens hard cheese, today in the blazing sunshine with the mercury hitting 14c, these were as fine as the finest chips I've eaten. What's more I wasn't drunk and my chip tasting record's impeccable because many years ago when Heston was just a village north of Hounslow, I was among the first to try the thrice cooked chips of a budding young chef named after it.

Blumenthal's, finished in fat rendered from calves kidneys, are impressive, unfortunately they were to change the face of restaurant chippage forever. Chips began suffering the fate of those who consume them and nowadays the 'chips' in many Glasgow restaurants look more like roast potatoes. Not here. Today these little skin-on blighters were sublime. A perfect tempura light crisp outside yielding to fluffy taste packed potato inside. Cut as chips not fries and definitely not 'thick'. Chip perfection for £2.50.

Other than good potatoes I've no idea if they're employing any special chip technique, they definitely didn't use veal kidney fat though because the 78's a vegan. Lack of animals didn't hinder the delicious Quesadillas or the tasty Ras el-hanout roast sweet potato wrap either. One slight caveat, all the beans, nuts and pulses that took the place of meat made this food seriously filling, six hours later and I'm still stuffed. For the myriad students living nearby that's probably a bonus, especially on Tuesday's when they get 25% off. What a bargain.

Click here for THE 78 website

THE 78

10-14 Kelvinhaugh Street
tel. 0141 576 5018

The 78 on Urbanspoon

Saturday 20 April 2013

Enoteca Panevino - top wine & nibbles in Finnieston

Panevino, bread and wine, two of the greatest achievements of western civilisation and two of my favourite things yet until last night I'd never been in. Outside the menu read well, peeping through the window all I could see was a chichi sea of marble and polished metal. Italian bling is no doubt still the rage in Newlands and Newton Mearns but it's totally incongruous amid Finnieston's seething mass of piercings, tattoos and fixed gear bikes. This is Glasgow's wanna be Dalston that ended up Potlandia, here everyone believes they've at least one good pop-up in them.

Anyway, last night we were booked in for a spot of total immersion theatre in an empty warehouse above a fishmonger, as you do in Finnieston, but completely forgot to book anywhere for dinner. Numerous phone calls, a few of which were actually answered, resulted in the conclusion that since it was 12 degrees centigrade, sunny and Friday the entire city had decided come out to eat, drink and kid-on they live in a proper climate. Suddenly I remembered Panevino and we were in.

It's a funny thing getting in somewhere after trying everywhere else. Initially it's elation but by the time the phone call's finished you start thinking, 'Hmm, why did they have a table when nobody else did?'. I needn't have worried, the answer was 'because they could be arsed', the place was mobbed and they'd made an effort to squeeze us in.

The menu's full of things I like eating at this time of year. There's various nibbles- hams, salamis, cheeses- as well as more substantial dishes. If you get there before 6pm they do Aperitivo where for £5 you get a drink and a selection of nibbles 'of the day'.

We started with grilled then marinated vegetables, all £2 a dish and enough for three of us to have a bit. We went for courgettes, aubergines, artichokes, all good, fabulous little red peppers stuffed with tuna and a couple of cheeses, the one with Barolo wine was delicious. Bread's £1.60 a basket and nice enough.

For mains the beetroot risotto looked brilliant and tasted good, beetroot and parmesan go together really well. Proper risotto needs to be cooked to order, that takes at least 25 minutes with pretty much constant attention, something most restaurants can't do. Here they'd managed to retain a bit of bite to the rice.

If bread and wine are western civilisations greatest achievements then Linguine alle Vongole must surely be one of Italy's. It's a relatively straightforward dish that's almost impossible to find well executed.  Panevino's last night was the best I've had in Glasgow and by quite some way. Throughout the short time it took to devour the al dente linguine, swirling mass of surf clams and perfectly integrated garlicky sauce I didn't say a word. Rarely does a craving get satiated so well for £10.50.

The wine list's excellent and there's over 30 by the glass. We drank a superb bottle of Sardinian Vermentino, so good it tasted like a bargain at £22.40. There's plenty of good looking bottles for less than that. Frustratingly they don't put their wine list online, that's a real shame because it makes for good browsing.

We finished with a couple of very good espressos, just £1.40 each, before wandering off to the warehouse where we spent the next hour atop penny farthings, peddling away, staring into a Victorian camera at beautifully crafted miniature worlds whilst someone whispered in our ears. I love Finnieston.

panevino, 1075 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8LZ
tel. 0141 221 1136

Click here for the panevino website

And here's a clip from the bloody marvelous Portlandia:

Panevino on Urbanspoon